RESIDENT Lucy Smith ensured her pets were safe as her home was evacuated due the devastating fire at the Sergeants' Mess.

Lucy, 27, lives in Roman Circus Walk - behind the Grade II listed buidling which was seriously damaged by fire.

When police said she had to leave her home for her own safety, she immediately rushed to save her cat, Aspen, and tortoise, Toto. Lucy said: "The smoke got thick so quickly, my throat and lungs were raw. "The police came in and said we had to be evacuated so I grabbed my cat and my tortoise and put them in carriers. "My neighbours were so lovely. They helped me with them. "One neighbour nearby was so kind. He let us all wait in his flat and he was so hospitable." For full coverage of the blaze which has partially destroyed the historic building, see tomorrow's Gazette.